Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: 'Roger Daltrey: The Biography'

Poor Rog. There are several fairly thick biographies of both Pete Townshend and Keith Moon. John Entwistle was the subject of a feature-length documentary. What does Roger Daltrey get? A leaflet-sized biography that fails to mention his songwriting efforts, reduces his entire solo career to a couple of paragraphs, and zips through everything that happened to him after the sixties in fewer than 100 pages. Writers Tim Ewbank and Stafford Hildred’s reliance on old interviews with Who manager Kit Lambert makes for some entertaining reading but the raconteur rarely instills confidence that his stories are accurate. Neither does the writers’ tendency to make sloppy mistakes, as when they refer to the “three” albums of original material The Who released in the eighties. The only chapter that is sufficiently thorough and unique is the one covering Roger’s acting career. Otherwise, Roger Daltrey: The Biography offers little information about the singer that can’t be gleaned from most Who biographies.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Who FAQ Poll! Best Solo Albums...

In my quest to ensure The Who FAQ doesn't merely rest on my own subjective opinions about the World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band, I'm relying on you Who fans to help decide the contents of my upcoming book.

First up, I'd like to know about your favorite solo albums by each band member. With only one solo LP to his name, Keith needs no mention, but what do you think is Pete's greatest record? How about Rog and John? Sound off in the comments section below, and I'll feature the best loved discs in The Who FAQ!

Review: Bo Diddley's 'Diddley Daddy: The Collection'

For those who don’t know, an anthology of 52 classics from Bo Diddley may seem like an overdose of “shave-and-a-haircut” beats. Devotees of the Boss Man know he was a lot more eclectic than that. Yes, there are plenty of chances to get hypnotized by Bo’s trademark rhythm (and hear him sing his own praises by name), but he also bashes out some hard Chicago-style blues on “I’m a Man” (proving that white Rockers didn’t have a monopoly on ripping off Muddy Waters), blasts off some fast boogie on “Diddley Daddy”, and lays down a heavy Rock & Roll riff on “Roadrunner”. Elsewhere, Bo knows John Lee Hooker-style blues (“She’s Fine, She’s Mine”), surfy instrumentals (“Aztec”), hilarious novelties (“Say Man”) doo-wop (“I’m Sorry”), Latin swirl (“Dearest Darling”), Buddy Holly-esque pop (“Crackin' Up”), folk standards (“Sixteen Tons”), and proto-psychedelia (the disorienting “Down Home Special”). Indeed, the breadth of artists who’ve covered songs on Diddley Daddy: The Collection speaks to its eclectic nature:  The Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, The Who, The Velvet Underground, The Pretty Things, New York Dolls, The Kinks, Elvis Presley, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and on and on. One thing all these tracks have in common is eerie, celestial production, and of course, Bo’s unfathomably mesmeric soul. A consistently transfixing listening experience.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Farewell, Chris Stamp

Unfortunate news has reached my desk this morning by way of Matt Kent's Naked Eye News. Chris Stamp died yesterday at Mt. Sinai Hospital where he'd spent the last two weeks. He was 70.

Brother of actor Terence, Chris achieved fame when he and his show-biz partner Kit Lambert went seeking stars for a film that would have tracked the rise of a young, English pop band. Stamp and Lambert settled on a Mod group called The High Numbers that Lambert had seen pumping out a set of Maximum R&B at the Railway Hotel on July 14, 1964. The partners decided to take the group under their managerial wings, first convincing them to revert to their previous name: The Who. 

Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert led The Who through their first ten years, a decade in which they released much of their greatest music on Stamp and Lambert's Track Records, which also put out Jimi Hendrix's recordings in the UK. While Bill Curbishley took over management in the mid-seventies, Stamp remained a close associate of the band, and continued singing their praises in the 2007 documentary Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who.

Expect a more thorough tribute to Chris Stamp and his life's work in The Who FAQ, coming in 2014.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: 'Del Shannon: The Essential Collection 1961-1991'

Though Del Shannon only managed two top ten hits in his home country, he scored a far more impressive eight in the UK. So it is appropriate that Britain’s Music Club Deluxe Records has put together one of the most comprehensive anthologies of his decades-spanning body of work. The transcendent “Runaway” naturally gets things underway, and is immediately followed by the excellent “Hats Off to Larry,” which is his second best known record in the States. For we Americans, much of the remainder of The Essential Collection 1961-1991 is a trove of treasures screaming to be heard for the first time.

Disc one, which houses all of the US and UK hits, is actually somewhat hit-and-miss. When Shannon had great material, such as the aforementioned hits or lesser-known wonders such as his non-hit his version of his own composition “I Go to Pieces” (a big hit for Pete and Gordon), he could do no wrong. But some of this stuff is middling doo-wop that highlights the limitations of his voice in the days before he became a consistently confident singer. On disc two, he stretches beyond the falsetto and musitron (the eerie keyboard showcased on “Runaway”) formula of his early hits to embrace garage rock, baroque pop, psychedelia, and country pop. Although these recordings aren’t always amazing —his covers of “Under My Thumb” and The Box Tops’ “The Letter” stick too close to the originals to be much more than redundant—they are consistently good. Much of this, such as the four recordings culled from 1967 sessions produced by Andrew Oldham (including a baroque-pop remake of “Runaway”) and the two tracks pulled from his vastly underrated psychedelic opus The Further Adventures of Charles Westover, are superb. Shannon had a lot more than “Runaway” in his arsenal. The Essential Collection 1961-1991 is positive proof of that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: 'Alien: The Illustrated Story'

Considering how adult Alien is—not just in terms of violence and profanity, but also in pacing and artistry—it’s surprising how Ridley Scott’s film was marketed back in 1979. Twentieth Century Fox not-too-subtly pitched the film at kids by licensing an Alien action figure and an Alien comic book. As written by Archie Goodwin and illustrated by Walter Simonson, the book did not pull any punches in terms of blood, “fucks,” “shits,” and sex talk, although at 60-pages, the pace was certainly brisker. This all makes for a wonderfully seedy read: a slow and brooding film transformed into a Heavy Metal comic (quite literally, as Heavy Metal was the original publisher). Simonson’s art captured the actors’ likenesses well, and Goodwin’s text embellished on the script just enough to get all the film’s beats in at the skimpy designated page count. Titan Books has just reprinted Alien: The Illustrated Story for the first time in thirty-three years. It would have been nice if this bare-bones reprint had a few extras, some commentary on its publication or artists perhaps, but as it stands, it’s still a groovy artifact.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: 'Angel: After the Fall' (slipcase edition)

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” receives the vast majority of geek love, but I personally preferred its spin-off. “Angel” was more adult, less cutesy pie (no talk of “smoochies” or “scoobies” to offend the ear). Although the title character—Buffy’s brooding, befanged ex-beau—was a bit of a drip, the supporting players were almost uniformly fab. And while “Buffy” certainly declined in quality over time, “Angel” hit its stride in season five when he and his gang took over an evil law firm (I know, I know, they’re all evil. Hardy har).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: The Jam's 'The Gift' Super Deluxe Edition

The Jam’s final record is the one that most delivers on their mod image. It is rhythmically tight, with Rick Buckler slapping out the kinds of Benny Benjamin beats dapper modernists shimmied to in 1963. Paul Weller and Bruce Foxton’s songs are pure pop in the mode of the English groups that worshipped American soul in the salad days of the Vespa and the ventilated flack jacket. At times The Jam betray their fealty to their favorite era, as when Weller skids out Superfly wah-wah licks on “Precious”, but “Trans-Global Express”, “Running on the Spot”, and the glorious “Town Called Malice” find these mods at their most modish.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: The Super Deluxe Edition of 'The Velvet Underground and Nico'

The Velvet Underground and Nico was one of the two most important albums of 1967, arguably the most important year for the LP in Rock history. It is the year that the album once and for all replaced the single as Rock’s chief medium. With such a distinction, and such incredible music, The Velvet Underground and Nico is easily deserving of one of those multi-disc, “super deluxe editions” that maximize profits on a band’s back catalogue. There’s no question that everything in this new six-disc set deserves release. The Velvet’s debut is presented in both its original stereo and mono mixes expanded with bonus mixes, several of which appeared on singles (believe it or not, even the most underground group played that game… not that it gave them any hits). There’s a disc of even more alternate mixes, a few alternate takes, and some rehearsals. There’s Nico’s debut album Chelsea Girl, on which Lou Reed and John Cale provided much material and musical accompaniment. Rarest of all are the two discs capturing a set at Ohio’s Valleydale Ballroom recorded in November 1966.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review: 'The Stanley Kubrick Archives'

Stanley Kubrick’s background as a still photographer was fully apparent in his cinematic works. His images held up magnificently when editor Alison Castle floated them from the screen to the pages of her 2004 book The Stanley Kubrick Archives. These shots “scanned directly from the film reels” constitute Part 1 of Castle’s massive tribute to our most awe-striking filmmaker. She allows these iconic images—Jamie Smith wielding a mannequin in Killer’s Kiss, Sterling Hayden watching his fortune blow down a runway in The Killing, James Mason painting Sue Lyons’s toes in Lolita, Slim Pickens riding a bomb in Dr. Strangelove, the moon and sun aligning with a looming monolith in 2001, the 50mm paintings of Barry Lyndon, the blood-flooding elevator of The Shining—to speak for themselves, reminding us of how the essence of filmmaking is pictures not words and how often dialogue was unneeded in so many of Kubrick’s most powerful scenes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Review: 'Magical Mystery Tour' DVD

The Beatles were so naïve when they filmed Magical Mystery Tour that a pie chart sufficed as a script. They weren’t even aware they needed to use clapboards! That error caused its share of troubles while editing their home movie, as Paul McCartney says in his director’s commentary on this new DVD. That naïveté was also the target of the merciless critical drubbing the film received upon its airing as a BBC1 Boxing Day special in 1967. How could such creators of quality music think they could pass of such crap on their loyal public? What charlatans!

 45 years on from Beatlemania’s initial intensity, Magical Mystery Tour plays surprisingly well. It is, as the critics charged, indulgent, but that can be forgiven at a tight little 53 minutes well divided by six Beatle tunes. There’s no story to speak of, and the tour isn’t particularly magical or mysterious, but its hard to get bored, what with Victor Spinetti’s babbling sergeant, The Bonzo Dog Doodah Band’s uproarious performance of “Death Cab for Cutie”, Jan Carson’s stripping, Jessie Robins’s scene-stealing bickering with Nephew Ringo, and the precious opportunity to spend some time with the Fabs in their post-Sgt. Pepper’s psychedelic splendor. The five-minute romp bookended by Spinetti’s capering and “Flying” is the only spot that really sags. Otherwise, Magical Mystery Tour is a nice collage of music video randomness and 1967 weirdness.

Since the film is so brief, it’s only good value that this DVD should be fattened up with a generous selection of extras. The most substantial is Paul’s commentary, and it’s interesting to hear him talk so much about such an odd item in The Beatle’s overly familiar bag of tricks. There’s a 20-minute documentary with new interviews with Paul and Ringo, Bonzo Dog Neil Innes, and others who were along for the ride. The doc is neat, though it whitewashes the negative reaction that met the film. There’s a video for Traffic’s “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” not included in the film that would have been preferable to the aforementioned romp. There are alternate edits of three musical sequences, a short featurette in which Ringo watches the film on his laptop, and a couple of cut scenes, one of which was directed by Lennon and plays like a Benny Hill bit. The most fascinating extra may be the 11-minute “Meet the Supporting Cast” in which we see Jessie Robins playing some jazzy drums. A smiling Ringo deems her kit-work “far out” and “pretty hot.” He isn’t wrong.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Review: The Doors: Live at the Bowl ’68

Forget the silly Christ imagery and bad poetry that pollutes Doors lore. They were a good band, Jim Morrison was sexy and had an expressive voice, and he could put on a good show. Aside from a few breaks to allow him to indulge in his drivel, The Doors’ historic concert at the Hollywood Bowl in the summer of ’68 was short on bullshit and high on entertainment.

The audience and the band are in good humor, betraying the dour reputation of both parties. When Morrison and Ray Manzarek create a moment of incredible tension in “When the Music’s Over”, Jim snaps it with a well-timed burp. As the show progresses, the acid he dropped backstage starts to kick in, and his performance becomes more unpredictable without completely losing the rhythm. The band is tight, turning in stand out renditions of “Spanish Caravan” and “The Unknown Soldier”.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s presentation of The Doors: Live at the Bowl ’68 is as exceptional as the show. Large chunks of vocals hadn’t been recorded properly in ’68, so original soundman Bruce Botnick scoured other live recordings until finding replacements that matched Morrison’s lip movements, while making additional alterations digitally to sync with his body language. That there is an impressive attention to detail, friends. The extras are nice too, with some TV clips and substantial features on the restoration, the Bowl, and the concert with new interviews from Botnick, Manzarek and Robby Krieger, and opening act The Chambers Brothers.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

'The Who FAQ' and the Future of Psychobabble

Over in the sidebar, you may have noticed a new image leading to a new page on Psychobabble this past week. Well, now that the Halloween season spooktivities have ended, I can announce some news I've been sitting on all month. Late this past August, Robert Rodriguez of Backbeat Books asked me to submit a proposal for a book about The Who for the publisher's FAQ series. Like the good boy I am, I did as I was asked, and on October 5, Robert told me my Who FAQ had gotten the green light.

Now the real work begins. While I launch myself into Who-ville for the next six to twelve months, my posts here on Psychobabble will probably become less regular. There probably won't be too many long features while I devote my time to all things Who, but there will still be the usual reviews and news items. Plus I promise to share updates on my progress with The Who FAQ (which I'll keep collected on the FAQ page). I may even ask your help in putting together what I hope will be the ultimate guide to The Who by a Who freak for Who freaks.

As always, thanks for reading, and Long Live Rock.

-Mike Segretto
All written content of is the property of Mike Segretto and may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.